How It Works

How Mobile is AMP?

Should you use AMP to power your mobile site? No. Here’s what you do instead.

There are pros and cons of using AMP, the biggest being Alex Kras’ discovery that Google is kinda stealing your mobile traffic with AMP. But since WPBeginner lays out the pros and cons really well, I’m going to skip over that and discuss something else.

Responsive Themes Responsive Themes

The concept of a ‘mobile only’ theme is one I generally deride. After all, if you’re on a website in 2017, it should have been written with the concept of mobile first. Most people design a site for their computer/browser of choice, and then add in resizes for mobile. Contrasting this is the idea that you build out your website for mobile browsers first, and then go back in and add in the larger views. That is Mobile First.

It’s an ideal, I agree, and while I love it (and Carrie Dils who made the beautiful Utility Pro Theme as a mobile first them), it can’t always be achieved. Some websites are written to be ‘apps’ and they’re intended to be used as a browser app.

In general, I support the use of a responsive theme, be it mobile first or not. This kind of theme will react based on browser size, or operating system type. But a mobile ‘only’ theme? I dislike them a great deal. They create headaches with caching (ask anyone who’s had their cache catch the mobile page for everyone!) and they can be difficult to jump back from, if someone is perhaps on a tablet that can handle the ‘full’ site. They also double your work.

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AMP is a project by Google. The concept is a super light, ultra-fast mobile page for your sites. AMP is fast, it’s simple, and it’s a stripped down version of your normal site. How it works is that When Google searches your site and adds it to their big giant database, they can can see “Aha, this site has AMP! I will use it for mobile!” And then, when someone surfs to your site via a Google search, Google would notice “This user is on mobile! I will show it AMP displays!”

The downside you might have noticed is that the AMP pages only get called when you’re doing a Google search. That means if you go to a website on your phone, you get the mobile responsive site anyway. Which is what Paul (and I) think you should be doing. And right away, you might think “Hey, I should make all my mobile visitors go to AMP!” and you may come up with code like this:

function amp_redirect() {
	if ( wp_is_mobile() ) {
		$url = trim(  $_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'], '/' );
		if ( substr( $url, -3) != 'amp' ) {
			$url = $_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'] . '/?amp';
			wp_redirect( $url );

That looks great, doesn’t it? It’s smart enough to check if the URL ends in ‘amp’ and, if so, not redirect. Plus it uses ?amp which means if the page doesn’t have an AMP URL, it won’t fail an ugly 404 death.

There is, however, a big problem with AMP. You end up having two sites. Paul Bakaus talks about the pitfalls of a separate mobile site, and how you should keep a responsive theme for your site, and not use AMP for Mobile. This is not a good thing in the long run.

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A RESTful Alternative A RESTful Alternative

So let’s think about this differently and not in the simple “Mobile vs Non-Mobile” way. Let’s ask ourselves the real questions. “What is this site doing?” and “How will people be using this site?” Because the crux of the matter is really how is the data from the site being consumed!

Recently, with the advent of the REST API, WordPress has as new way for people to eat your data. Much like I’ve talked about before, using the REST API to power an Alexa app or a plugin, the REST API can be used to power mobile apps! Yes, people are running iOS apps with the REST API. This lets you display the content however you want, even audio only, and yet power it fully with WordPress.

In a way, you’re still making two sites, the app and the theme, but… You’re not making a generic theme that fits all users. You’re making a real application that fits the specific use case.

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What’s The Answer? What’s The Answer?

Let’s break this down.

1) Your theme should be responsive for mobile. Period.
2) AMP is great for Google searches.
3) The REST API can, and should power your apps.

That’s it. Three steps to amplifying your site.

Oh, and please don’t use that code I showed you. It’s sad.